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Great Decisions in Foreign Policy

Should the U.S. Give Up on Haiti? News/Business. (2011) Whether the U.S. should continue to help Haiti build a democracy. (CC) (Stereo)

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Haiti 67, United States 31, U.s. 31, Us 14, Aristide 6, United 5, Dallas 5, America 5, Washington 2, Delaware 2, Obama Administration 2, Ray 2, Ray Walser 2, Ralph Begleiter 2, Clinton Administration 1, United Nation 1, U.n. 1, Preval 1, Michael Shifter 1, United States Has 1,
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  PBS    Great Decisions in Foreign Policy    Should the U.S. Give Up on Haiti?  News/Business.  (2011)  
   Whether the U.S. should continue to help Haiti build a...  

    March 25, 2011
    9:00 - 9:29pm PDT  

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>> prepare... >> prepare to discuss the world! [instrumental music] >> great decisions is produced by the foreign policy association, inspiring americans to learn more about the world. great decisions is produced in association with the university of delaware. sponsorship of great decisions is provided by, price waterhouse coopers llp, the aarp office of international affairs, and the european commission. coming up next, "should america and the european commission. coming up next, "should america give up on haiti?" [instrumental music] >> welcome to great decisions, where americans make tough choices on u.s. foreign policy. i'm ralph begleiter. this week we ask, "should the u.s. give up on haiti?" to help answer this question we'll be joined by great decision participants in dallas and by our experts: ray walser, a senior policy analyst at the heritage foundation and michael shifter, president of the inter-american dialogue. thanks to both of you for being with us
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on great decisions. right to the top question, "should the united states give up on haiti?" ray. >> the question, i think, is posed in a moral sense, "should the u.s. do a particular, make a particular decision regarding haiti?" i don't think that is the way the question should be posed. "will the u.s. give up on haiti?" and i'm afraid that the answer may be that the u.s. over time, will tend to give up on haiti because the problems that it faces there and the reconstruction process dealing with an impoverished country with low levels of human capital and financial capital, given its tendency to move towards political division, ah, the insecurities there and the competing interests that we face around the world in a, in a period of physical retrenchment, i think will lead us, eventually, to more or less give up or to lose patience with haiti once again and see it fall back into a certain era of neglect.
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but i think there is, underneath, a certain desire of the american people, a commitment by the patient diaspora, and hopefully the haitian people themselves, to come back from this terrible tragedy and, and continue forward. but the u.s. as a government, ah, will probably tend to lose interest over time in haiti. >> when you say, "this terrible tragedy", you're referring to the earthquake? >> to the earthquake. >> recent earthquake, of course. but haiti's been through a lot of tragedies, ah, the earthquake the most recent of them. ah, when, when you think, when you say that the u.s. government will, ah, "give up", essentially, on it, do you mean just sort to say, "never mind haiti, we're not going to come to your aid the next time there's an earthquake or a flood or a storm," or something of that sort? >> i think what you'll see is the sort of episodic involvement that you have seen in the past, that we've seen everything for a sort of post-cold war indifference of the duvalier period, recent engagement with the, the aristide period in the 1990's, ah, we've seen sort of the post aristide, post 2004 passage
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to a sort of a hybrid system of the u.n. of the u.s. of n.g.o.'s, of the haitian government, ah, i think we're seeing a transformation or transition process underway. the u.s. will, will try to step back, i think, from the actual rebuilding of haiti, from taking responsibility for what goes on on that island. >> alright, michael, same question to you: "should the u.s. give up on haiti?" >> well absolutely not. ah, i think the u.s. has a historic responsibility in haiti. ah, i think the u.s. has a strong interest in haiti. ah, it's close to the united states. there are over a million haitians who live in the united states. it has strategic importance for the united states. and i also think the u.s. has a capacity to be helpful in haiti. ah, this is a country that's had a tragic history, had a tragic earthquake, a devastating earthquake, ah, and i think the commitment has to be strong. it's difficult. it's frustrating. we all know the problems that, ah, the u.s. has
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encountered over time. we know the difficult circumstances of haiti, it's the poorest country in the western hemisphere, virtually no institutions, strong institutions. ah, but there's a lot at stake and i think the united states cannot afford to look the other way. i think it needs to help be part of an effort to try to rebuild and reconstruct the country. >> you said, "historic responsibility", what's the us's historic responsibility to haiti? >> well the u.s. occupied the, the country for almost 20 years in the early part of the 20th century. ah, it supported, ah, dictatorships, the duvalier dictatorships for a long stretch of time. so, it has been very, very involved in haiti. there's always been this kind of concern about haiti that former u.s. officials used to talk about this as a nuisance that was close to the u.s. shores. and so, i think that, ah, there has to be a responsibility given that history and a commitment to try to see this country through a very, very difficult period. >> i was on the american
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secretary of state's plane back in 1994 when he delivered a then democratically elected president, ah, jean-bertrand aristide back to haiti. ah, aristide, of course, has not turned out to, did not turn out to be a good president for haiti either. ah, let's turn to some of our, ah, great decision participants in dallas and see what they have to say about this question. >> i think that there is a spirit in the united states that they want to help people. some, for many reasons, some altruistic, some not so altruistic. >> um, i think it's important for the united states government to step away from haiti, because i think we have enough american problems for the united states government to handle. however, i think it's very important for american businesses and non-profit groups as well to help haiti. >> we can't continue doing things the same way we have in the past. >> you've both mentioned the numerous u.s. interventions, political, military, economic
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and so on in haiti. ah, has what the u.s. has done with haiti undermined or assisted in better democratic government in haiti? ray. >> again, sort of the timeframe. the united states really didn't do democracies, ah, before, very well before the end of the cold-war. so let's look, let's put it in the cold, in the context of the post cold-war period. we have democracy coming in, the election of aristide, the military coup. what does the clinton administration do? it begins, it puts on an embargo. it, basically, kills off what was the textile industry at the particular time. it has good intentions about supporting democracy, but then undercuts the economic base which you need for democracy. they restore aristide, aristide lives out, goes out his term, preval comes in, aristide returns, you once again have a polarizing period. you have washington confused. do we support aristide? do we back away? do we hold off aid and, and, sort of clip
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the umbilical to the united states? he leaves in, in 2004 under, obviously, duress, and you move in, as i said, into this sort of hybrid. the united states, i think, by about 2004, 2005 really sees that it cannot take an active and direct role in determining haiti's future. so you turn to minustah, ah, you turn to the n.g.o.'s, you basically create a sort of hybrid which shares sovereignty with the haitian government. at least that is the sort of interpretation i have. so in essence, i think after 2005, the united states has sort of relinquished that sort of central role, that interventionist role which is kind of the, the driving story, at least from the leftist point of view of what, what makes things happen, ah, in our backyard. >> michael, have we helped or hurt in our interventions in terms of establishing true democracy in haiti? >> i don't think the, ah, the history has been very encouraging or very proud or a very happy one.
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ah, i think haiti has been used, ah, for the, by the u.s. in terms of internal partisan politics, domestic politics. we have republicans who didn't like aristide, the democrats who supported aristide and so haiti gets caught in the middle of that. we had haiti caught in the middle of the cold-war battles, ah, as well, because we supported the united states supported a, a dictatorship of duvalier because we were concerned about the spread of communism in the western hemisphere. and i think as a result of that, that haiti has really suffered. and so, ah, the, there have may be have good intentions of spreading democracy, but the effect of it, i think, has been to undermine, not to strengthen democrat, the prospects for democratic governance. whish is why, i think, now we're facing the real opportunity to really do things differently and redeem, in some sense, the role of the united states, which i think, on balance, has not been very positive. >> michael, would you disagree with an american who might be watching this program and just saying,
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"you know what, let's just let the haitians handle it and let's stay out of it." what's wrong with that approach? >> well, i think the haitians should take, ah, control of their situation, but i think they, they are not in a position to, to do so on their own right now. they need help. the country has been devastated, it's in terrible shape, it needs support, and the united states has the capacity, has the responsibility, and i think it's in u.s. interest to provide that support. but, t united states shouldn't take control of haiti, the haitians need to take control, but they need some assistance to get to that, to that position. >> ray, do they have the capability, the capacity, the political capacity to take control and do it themselves? >> i don't think at this particular point they do. that's why you've created this sort of interim haitian recovery commission, ah, reconstruction commission. you've, you've created, again, going back to what i call this hybrid, ah, entity which is sort of part haitian, part international community, part n.g.o.'s, part u.s. government. ah, i think that it's, yes,
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the, the standard sort of talking point in washington for the administration is, yes, we're going to build haitian democracy. the bottom line is, are they capable to do it? do they have the institutional capacity? the institutional was, was heavily hit by the earthquake, ministries were destroyed and everything like that. democracy has to have institutions, it has to have security, otherwise, it's just a word that we use, ah, that makes us feel better. >> let's talk about the earthquake for just a couple of minutes here. the natural disaster revealed construction problems, regulation problems in haiti, ah, that obviously have been going on for a long time. the question is, has the united states really contributed to those poor conditions, making haiti incapable of withstanding the type of natural disaster that it's, ah, subject to from time-to-time? let's turn to our great decision viewers in dallas for some views on that. >> you know, the government has to become more stable, it has to become more operable. giving the funds to ngo's and to certain elites
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in the country just hasn't work. >> with our constantly changing, ah, support and lack thereof, we give these haitians mixed messages, which, has definitely hindered their progress. >> the ideas and the thrust and the motivation has got to come from the haitian people, but this may be the catalyst. this, this whole tragedy may be the catalyst that gets people to think outside of themselves, to desire more education and to work together to form something that's right for haiti, not necessarily the u.s. >> michael, the effects of the quake revealed all these problems in haiti with construction and standards and government response and so on. does the quake in effect reveal that the u.s. investment in haiti, in the pre-quake period, was kind of a waste of money? >> well, i think,
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you can't blame, ah, what happened in haiti, ah, on the united states. but i think that, ah, there were some, ah, improvements in haiti in the pre-quake period that have to be recognized. the security situation improved, ah, investment was going up. so i think that the united states was playing a positive role. it was only modest, marginal progress, but unfortunately, the earthquake hit precisely at the time when one could see there was some basis, some grounds, ah, for hope. obviously the, ah, the problems in the structures in haiti reflects the level, the low level of development in the country. we knew that. ah, but i think you start to see the country begin to come out of that hole, and the united states was playing a role, ah, both in terms of improving the security situation, contributing to the united nation's force, ah, in haiti as well as beginning to see some, ah, investment in the country. so, you can't expect miracles in a country like haiti. it's going to be slow, gradual progress, but i think the united states can, can play
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a constructive role. >> ray, is this one of those cases where americans would say, "if we do more in haiti, we're throwing good money after bad?" >> i'll come to, i'll sort of support michael on what he said initially. the period, i'd say roughly from 2005 to up to the earthquake, this spans the bush administration into the obama administration. it does involve congress. it does involve the international community. yes, i think that things were being accomplished. i think that there was an opportunity there to promote investment, there was an opportunity to sort of bring the private sector in, ah, begin export led growth and everything. i mean, we've got to look at it, ultimately, at the, the sources by which haiti can recover, which is, in essence, it's economy. and it's an economy that was basically flatlined, ah, and, and again, we've got to look at, in the post-period, a way to create out of minimal human capital, minimal financial capital, some track, sort of towards the future.
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but is ultimately something that the haitians themselves, ultimately, have to, ah, to take upon themselves. remember haiti, say roughly about 1960, probably had sort of a, comparatively was not a, ah, the poorest country in the world. i'd say it was, ah, you know, it was on par almost with, with some of, many of the asian countries which have grown over the last decade. so there's something fundamental there we have to look at and we've got to try to, to resolve. but it's basically the haitian people are going to have to do it. >> alright, you've said, "the haitians have to do it." michael, did you want to jump in on that? >> well, i just want to say, it's remarkable that given the magnitude of the, of the disaster, of the earthquake, and given the poverty in the country, that there hasn't been more violence and insecurity and looting, ah, after that. i mean, i think that demonstrates, ah, i think, reflects very well on the haitian people that there is a kind of a determination, a spirit to improve the situation in their country, and it hasn't, ah, it hasn't turned into chaos. and so i think one has, has to bear that in mind. >> a lot of what has happened in the post-quake period
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in haiti has been attributable to non-governmental organizations coming in, not just from the united states, but really from all over the world. um, is this a problem? is haiti a problem that really is not one that the u.s. government should respond to, but that somehow others should begin to step in in a bigger way? michael. >> well, i think everybody has to step in. ah, i think it's kind of a false debate to say, were there too many non-governmental groups, or versus the united states versus the haitian government. the external support is important. the u.s. has an important role, ah, because of, of the interest that the united states has, the proximity, the haitians in the united states. non-governmental groups have to play an important role because the haitian government is extremely week and doesn't have a great, a great deal of capacity. but in order to get to a point where it has greater capacity to deal and resolve its problems, i think non-governmental groups can play an important role. so you have to figure out a formula, ah, for all of these actors, ah, to work together. >> ray, should the u.s. government step aside and let others take the main responsibility
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in haiti? >> i think we have to play an active role. clearly, american tax-payer dollars are at work or involved in haiti. we have to have accountability. we have to have transparency. we have to combat corruption. ah, we cannot be, clearly, indifferent to what we're going to do. we've pledged to, ah, support with several, and i think the current supplemental is about two billion dollars. ah, that's almost the rest, that's almost equal to what we're spending in the rest of latin america. how we're going to continue to support the pledges that were made, ah, in the pledging conference somewhere around 10 to 11 billion dollars, are we going to find the funds for that? how are we then going to employ them effectively? it's not going to be enough to do the job. we're not going to be the determining voice. how are we going to help engineer this process is still a very big challenge before us. >> alright, let's take a look at what happens after the earthquake recedes into history, and, ah, it may be awhile before that happens, obviously, to the way haiti governs itself. ah, are we at a moment, did the quake, in effect, clear the slate in such a way
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that we can look toward haiti and say, there at a fresh start period, new opportunities for better government, ah, better management of its own affairs and so on? let's ask our viewers at the great decisions group in dallas about that. >> we need to continue to collaborate with not only the local government in terms of what their needs are assess what those are, the key stakeholders develop an intervention plan and also network with those who are key members within the local healthcare, education and political systems. >> the old, you know, give a man a fish or teach him how to fish. i think, you know, we need more of helping them understand what they should be doing and developing commerce and a true economy in recovery. >> i feel we've got good ideas as far as what we want to do with the money as far as placement education, infrastructure. however, i think it's, it's very vital that we stay involved and engaged because if we do
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not there are other countries that may step in and a whole lot of issues would occur. >> when there's great need, when there's incredible pain and suffering... people are little, they're open and they're willing to work together. what an opportunity for people to come in and for us i don't want to quite say "start over", but to build on tradition, on their cultures, etc. >> after the earthquake, does, does haiti have a chance for a kind of fresh start in terms of its government and its governance in terms of being able to do more for itself and less, become less reliant on the united states? ray. >> clearly the new government has a, major challenges. it has to exert executive leadership, it has to work with a new legislature, ah, a new legislative body. it has to build the, the core of a new civil service, a new cadre of officials who are dedicated to haiti,
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not to their own personal interests, who, it's going to have to level, bring up the technical level of ministerial personnel. it's going to have to assume from minustah the security role to build up its police forces, a judicial overhaul. it will have its hands full, but yes, in essence, it does have a, a fresh opportunity, ah, and, and let's just hope that they can realize it. >> and the u.s. doesn't have any role in that, in, in assisting that or does it? >> the u.s. will continue its role. the question again is oftentimes, ah, not its desire to assist, but how much it is willing, how much it can afford, and how much will competing interests distract the american people, the congress from the needs, clearly pressing needs, that will continue in haiti with this new government. >> michael, ah, what do you think about the future? >> well, i think, first of all, geography, ah, being so close to haiti and the fact that, ah, over 10% of the haitian population's in the united states are compelling reasons to remain engaged.
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i think it's a mistake to set unrealistic expectations. haiti, ah, this is an opportunity after the earthquake. i think everybody's focused on haiti. the haitians are more determined than ever to try to turn things around. but, it's not going to become a, a developed country, ah, over night. and so, if one sets expectations that can't be met, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. i think once you think about modest progress, gradual progress, ah, going back even to the pre-quake conditions which showed some improvement. the security conditions were getting better, the governance was getting better, there started to be investment. i think there's a real prospect of going back to that and then building on that to continue, ah, long term improvement. but the united states has to play an important role. i think the haitian population in the united states needs to be used as a resource. the haitian diaspora has been very successful in the united states. these are very resourceful people and to mobilize their commitment and the resources also to play a part in haiti, i think will have to be an essential ingredient, ah, to success.
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>> tell us more about that, ah, the large haitian diaspora in the united states. what can haitians in the u.s. do, ah, for their own country in the united states? >> well, the haitians have done very, very well in the united states, which shows precisely that the problem is that, not that the haitians are, are not, ah, resourceful and hard working and the like, it shows that the conditions in haiti are very, very difficult. when they come here, ah, many of them have been successful small business leaders. they've, they have some resources. i think ways to mobilize those resources, to get them together in order to, to invest in their country really needs to be a top priority. >> are you saying they ought to go back with their money and help rebuild their country, or are you suggesting they do something in the u.s., lobby washington or whatever? >> no, i think that, i think that to, to help their country, they don't have to go back to their country. many of them have been in the united states for a long time, they have families, they're settled in the united states, but certainly they care about their country, ah, their communities and many of them have family members, ah,
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in, in haiti. and so i think that that is a potential, ah, i think, ah, strategy that really needs to be taken advantage of. >> we've seen in the last year, in the united states, a real strong ray of attention to immigration policy, and it's become a hotbed in the last year. ah, does the haitian situation play into that immigration debate in the united states? are americans going to resist doing more with haiti or will it perhaps push the u.s. government in the direction of assisting haiti more so there'd be fewer refugees in the united states? ray. >> i think that the haitian immigration issue is, is more of a localized one, probably in florida and new york. i mean i think if you, if you look at the, at the big immigration issue, it is clearly the hispanics. obviously, haitians will, will benefit if there are changes, if there are tracks to, ah, to amnesty, ah, they benefit, obviously, by the temporary protected status which has been granted after the, ah,
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after the earthquake. i don't think that they'll be driving the train of the immigration debate, but i think that they will be one of the factors and one of the voices that will come into play when the obama administration sits down with congress to, to deal with this issue. >> michael, a brief comment, please. >> i think immigration's always important in haiti and i think it should give further impetus to, to try to make haiti work and to be really committed and engaged there, because if the situation really collapses, then we can face a major, major problem of haitians coming to the united states. i think you'd say that if, if haiti, if haiti, ah, really deteriorates further, it's going to be a heavier burden in the long run for the united states. a tax burden, flood of immigrants or security situation. there's, we didn't talk about the drug issue, but there's also, it's a transit point for the drug, for drugs that are coming to the united states and to europe. ah, we could have a worse security situation, a worse immigration problem, and in the long run that's going to be a heavier tax burden for the, for, for the americans. >> michael shifter with
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the inter-american dialogue, and ray walser of the heritage foundation, thank you both for being with us on great decisions. thank you as well for joining us on great decisions, and special thanks to our group in dallas. to join a great decisions group yourself in your area, visit www.greatdecisions.org. we'll see you next week. i'm ralph begleiter. >> to order a dvd of this series, visit shoppbs.org of this series, visit shoppbs.org or call 1-800-playpbs. [instrumental music] >> great decisions is produced by the foreign policy association, inspiring americans to learn more about the world. great decisions is produced in association with the university of delaware. sponsorship of great decisions is provided by price waterhouse coopers, llp, the aarp office of international affairs, of international affairs, and the european commission. [instrumental music]
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